HG: Homegrown Column May 16, 2009

I would like to know how soon can one trim spent daffodils and tulips without damaging the life of the bulbs?
Thank you.
— Christina

This is such a good question. I wish more people would ask it before starting to cut.

Right after the flowers have finished blooming is a very important time for your bulbs. They’re building themselves up for next year and forming the flower buds that you’ll enjoy a year from now.

What you want to do is cut down the old spent flower stalks but be careful to leave the foliage alone.

The plant needs this to take time to work on the next year’s growth, and removing the foliage keeps them from doing this.

Cutting off the spent flowers not only makes the plant more neat, but it also prevents the plant from forming seed.

You don’t want the plant wasting energy making seed. You want that energy going into making the bulbs as big and happy as it can.

A light scattering of fertilizer watered in well around the bulbs also will help them.
In a month or so, the foliage will start to naturally yellow and die down. At that point, you can cut it off and let your bulbs sleep all summer, fall and winter so they’re ready for next spring.

I am having a landscaper come and tear out all of my juniper bushes. What is the chance of the bushes coming back over time? Will they reseed or lay dormant for a period of time?
— Sharmin

If the landscaper is digging the plants out or even just cutting them off at ground level, you shouldn’t have to worry about them coming back. It’s extremely rare for them to reseed and they rarely sucker.

The only thing you may have to do something about is treating the soil before planting the new stuff you’d like there.

Over time, most conifers such as your junipers will change the chemistry of the soil around them.

These plants secrete chemicals through their fallen needles and directly from their roots that inhibit the growth of other plants. The leaf litter also tends to be very acidic.

Now, our soils are already strongly alkaline so lowering the pH is a beneficial thing to a point, but you can run into problems with too much of a good thing.

The way to deal with this is to turn over the soil and mix in some decomposed organic matter before planting anything.

Adding the organic matter is always beneficial, but it can also tie up any excess of these antagonistic chemicals.

These chemicals are also fairly volatile, and turning over the soil helps to dissipate them.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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